38 – Linden Hall, mid-19th century, west of Smithsburg, MD
Just west of Smithsburg, in the wide corner made by Cavetown Church Road and Route 64, is a mid 19th century farmstead. Screened by trees and shrubs, little is visible to the passerby but the small signs at each entrance that proclaim Linden Hall in honor of the trees that shade them. A wrought iron fence, with substantial simulated stone pillars topped by white painted balls, edges the property along Cavetown Church Road. Large trees lead down the little-used drive to a handsome three-bay brick home that has been painted white. A porch, the width of the house with square pillars two stories high and a balustrade at the roofline, faces the road. A long ell extends to the left rear of the house; and further to the west, a hundred feet or so from the house, is a thick windbreak of spruce trees.
The other entrance from Route 64 leads past a small lake to a circle in front of a large white frame barn that has a low addition on the right and a three-bay garage on the left. The lawn leading to the house is shaded with a large number of mature trees, and there are gardens of flowers and shrubs, as well as vegetable and perennial gardens.
In 1950, Everett Guild and his wife Kay came to the Smithsburg area from Michigan and purchased this property from Vernon Guessford. Originally parts of tracts patented as Mount Aetna and Sweepstakes, this 23 acre parcel had been part of a larger property owned by Edward Ingram that included Ingram’s Mill. This mill, which is behind the house on the other side of the small stream, was sold as a separate parcel in 1936.
In 1950, the commonly held attitudes toward old houses were much different than they are today. An old house was used only because a new one was not affordable; and if one liked old houses in spite of this cultural prejudice for new, it was modernized. Everett Guild declared that just because a house was old did not mean that it could not be comfortable. His clever adaptations and inventions have certainly made Linden Hall comfortable, but they have made changes in the original fabric of the house that probably would have been done differently today.
When the Guilds and their daughters moved to the farm, the lawn had three trees; and the land surrounding the buildings was in pasture and orchards. There was no lake, just another field. A man of boundless energy, Everett Guild undertook the renovation of his new home. He diverted the small creek at the back of the property into an underground irrigation system that allowed him to water his lawn from many different places; and he planted trees–oaks and maples, magnolias, the spruce windbreak, even redwoods–nearly all the trees that now shade the large lawn. The two large peach orchards and one apple orchard were removed and became pastures for the family’s horses.
Mr. Guild designed and built an air conditioning system for the lower level of the house that uses water from the well as the coolant. In the basement, the twelve foot long assortment of motors, fans, pipes and compressors still functions. The front entrance of the house was originally a one-story porch typical of the mid 19th century. Rotted and deteriorating, this porch was removed by Mr. Guild and replaced by a two-story Colonial Revival portico with a concrete floor. In the attic, he insulated the roof, put a vent in the front wall above the porch roof and installed fans to pull air through the length of the attic, with the result that this area is comfortable even on hot summer days. He excavated the partial basement to a full one, married the original joists to new timbers in order to strengthen the floors of the first story rooms, and poured a concrete floor in the basement. All the rooms in the house were dry walled, floors were leveled and carpeted and ceilings were lowered.
Mr. Guild converted the furnace to oil and installed tanks to hold a winter’s fuel so that it could be purchased at summer prices. In the garage is a lawn mower of his design–an ordinary riding mower with two hand mowers, lacking their handles, attached to either side of the rear chassis on swivels. These slaves (his name for them) widen the swath to over six feet and pivot easily around trees. In 1946, a new Willys jeep was purchased. To this day, the jeep is the pride of Linden Hall and can still do a full day’s work.
The lake was built by damming the small stream east of the barn. An overflow pipe was installed across the sloping yard, to the west of the house, where a large oval swimming pool was constructed. Fifty feet wide and 75 feet long, this pool is designed for swimming but is shallow enough for adults to stand in. The cold mountain water from the dammed lake is diverted from the overflow pipe into the pool as needed, or allowed to return to the creek in the pipe that carries it further across the lawn to the stream.
Inside the original six-panel front door, is a hall with the stairway on the left and a door into the living room on the right. Originally this room was two parlors, one in front of the other, each with its own fireplace. Mr. Guild removed the dividing wall to open the space and rebuilt the two fireplaces into a single large one. He then enclosed part of the room next to the hall and, using the second parlor door to access this space, added a downstairs bath and a closet. Behind the living room is a large dining room, and beyond that an ample kitchen that leads onto the side porch, which has been enclosed with huge windows and is now a sunroom.
While repainting the house, Everett Guild discovered a round hole in the gable end that had been filled with mortar and struck with lines to resemble the surrounding brick. He was mystified. Why would a small hole have been so high up that wall? Much later, while digging in the flower bed at the base of that wall, he discovered a cannon ball. The mystery solved, he polished the souvenir of a Civil War skirmish and displayed it in his house. Behind the garage a coin was found which was inscribed Georg III 1778. A coin dealer believes that this coin was struck in Virginia.
Seven years ago, Everett Guild and his wife sold Linden Hall to their daughter Pat Reecher and her husband Bill. Every summer the Guilds return for visits, and Everett Guild finds another project to fill his time. Visiting grandchildren and great-grandchildren come to enjoy Linden Hall and the efforts of their grandfather and to share the special family bond with this land.
Epilogue: The Reechers are in the maintenance phase of old house living: painting, cutting dead trees and removing 40 year old wallpaper to freshen the interior. Pat smiles when she reports that the paper was still firmly glued to the walls, a testament to the quality of her father’s work.